Leading Through Transition Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

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Leadership becomes entrenched through experiential learning. One such period is during transition phase due to wholesale organisational change, joint ventures or transition from one leader to the next.

Like in politics, organisations sometimes allow unfettered powers to the individual and some use this to move over any living organisation in front of them.  The situation becomes even more challenging if the transition follows the unceremonious exit of a toxic leader (read this article:http://bit.ly/2EY1MuP) who occupied a critical role that cuts across the breath and depth of the organisation. This is the time when many are filled with a feeling of euphoria because the change signals the end of suffering.

For many, this might herald an anticipated sense of freedom.

As the chief captain of such an organisation, the situation presents a few challenges and opportunities:

1. Navigate the team through the neutral zone

The team that was led by the outgoing, toxic leader needs intensive care. They are the ones that find themselves in a neutral zone. In the words of William Bridges, “in the neutral zone, the old reality is gone but the new reality isn’t functional yet”. There’s still anticipation about the future. This is akin to separating with an abusive partner, part of you yearns to be with the person but deep down you know you need to move on. This is when the captain needs to be aware of the emotional readiness of the team, take suggestions, determine with the team what needs to be done and the type of support that the team needs.

2. Manage beyond the immediate team 

When a toxic leader’s impact was beyond their specific function, you need to realize that the damage could be sipping through the entire organisation. People always wait in anticipation about when the tables will turn. Almost everyone feels like children of Israel coming out of Egypt on hearing the news about separation. As the captain, that is when the mammoth task starts. In most cases when a toxic leader leaves, the assumption is that those who stay will breathe fresh air into the organization. It does not happen that way. When people come out of bondage, they feel a sense of entitlement to liberties they believe they have missed all along. If this is not managed well, the organisation may be worse than before the toxic leader left. It is time to define the new state of affairs.

3. Define the new state

This is not about putting an advert out there and hoping to get a brilliant person to come through and save the situation. Capture the neutral zone for the organisation as you did the team. Some people may smell the stench and waiting in anticipation to jump ship due to uncertainty and fear of the unknown. It is at this juncture that the captain should rally the troops and define new behaviours unequivocally. Define the smell you want pervasive in the organisation and be clear about what will be tolerated or not .

4. Support the new leader

The new leader might come within the organisation or might be sourced externally. Either way, this leader needs more support to steer the ship out the muddy waters.  They need time to make their mark without being tainted by the actions of the previous leader. The previous actions with the directly affected team was to steady the ship. The new leader should be allowed to use that as a baseline for the future they envisage with their new team.

The organisation needs to be supported through a coaching process. As this process unfolds, it will be easy to move positions around and to change reporting lines. However, it is not easy to manage the hearts of those hurt and scarred in the process.

Tex Hlalele
Think Big, Dream Wild & Prosper

Tex Hlalele is a life and business coach and inspirational speaker. He is the author of the book, Face The Person In The Mirror. Book coaching and speaking engagements by calling +27 64 6566174 or visit http://bit.ly/dreamsmadepossible.

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